Manuel Millares' interest in further stripping back his work caused him to breakaway from the language of pictographs and search for new solutions. The artist moved to Madrid halfway through the 1950s and started to use other materials such as wood, ceramics, sand and sack-cloth, which would become a key element in his work. Not only did this material keep him close to his Canary Island roots, given that the Guanche mummies were wrapped in sacking for burial, but it also brought him into direct contact with artists who used traditionally non-artistic materials, defined at the time by Michel Tapié as Art Autre, known in Spain as Informalism. The establishment of Millares in the Spanish peninsula represented a point of contact with the “black” tradition of Castile and the Generation of ’98, prompting the artist to address the creative process with a propensity for destruction and the denial of space and the subject matter. Torn sacking, re-glued and stuck together to form a semblance of waste, express the vitality and violence of the materials, while the interest in the subject along with the gesture of the creative process place Millares in two of the most idiosyncratic aspects of Spanish Informalism – the gestural and the materic. The date of Cuadro 1957 coincides with the year the El Paso group were founded. Millares was one of its most active members and it represented a definitive “paso” (step) for the international exposure of Spanish art. The Franco regime, adopting a change in strategy from its previous autarchic system, saw these artists as an opportunity to project an image of normality and modernity to the outside world, which was key in this final period of the decade.
Ruth Gallego Fernández